This article is part of our College Basketball Picks series.
With a busy Wednesday slate in the college hoops world, Steve Peralta digs through all the action to find the most promising prospects. Here are his best bets of the day.
Syracuse at Florida State
Syracuse might not make the Big Dance come March, but the Orange are still putting up a fight in nearly every game. Syracuse currently has a winning conference record of 7-6 and has already won four road conference games up to this point. Not only that, but Syracuse has continuously improved and exceeded expectations for over two months now, going 11-5-1 against the spread since the start of December.
Florida State, meanwhile, is only one slot below Syracuse in the conference standings, but don't let that fool you, the Seminoles aren't actually that close to the Orange. Florida State currently has a negative adjusted efficiency margin, per KenPom, while Syracuse enters Wednesday's game with a margin of plus-eight points -- clearly a cut above Florida State. Syracuse has only lost one conference game by more than seven points, while Florida State has lost four by more than 14 points.
Examining the head-to-head matchup, Florida State's offense matches evenly with Syracuse's defense, but the outlook is rather grim on the other end of the court. During conference play, Florida State ranks 12th in the ACC in defensive efficiency, while Syracuse ranks fifth in offense, but something else stands out that is a cause for concern. Florida State has struggled to guard the perimeter all season, and the problem has only gotten worse since the conference season tipped off. Florida State is allowing ACC opponents to make 40 percent of shots from behind the arc, the highest percentage allowed in the ACC. This is great news for the Orange, as Syracuse has shown a high degree of accuracy with long-range shooting, making over 37 percent of three-point attempts during league competition, the third-highest in the ACC.
These two teams played each other three times last season, with each team winning on the road by at least three points. In their third meeting in the ACC tournament, Syracuse demolished Florida State by a final score of 96-57. Each team has a few new faces this year, but several key players will return to the court in Wednesday's game. I'm betting Syracuse will once again come away with the victory.
College Basketball Best Bet: Syracuse -2
Florida at Alabama
Florida has struggled with scoring all season, and the problem is significantly more pronounced on the road. For context, the Gators are scoring 73 points per game at home against conference foes, but the scoring plummets to 61 points per game when playing outside of Gainesville. The one saving grace, and constant, has been Florida's elite defensive play. The Gators are allowing 64 points per game at home against conference opponents and just 60 points per game on the road.
Alabama, in contrast, is playing much better defensively at home. The Crimson Tide is allowing 67 points per game to SEC opponents on the road, but the number drops to 57 points per game when defending at home. Alabama is also playing better offensively at home, but the overall point totals are still much lower when factoring in the defensive boost. In Tuscaloosa, Alabama's conference games are averaging 144 combined points per game, but then when it travels outside of its home arena, the number goes up to 148 points per game. A similar pattern also applies to Florida, but the differences are even more staggering. In Gainesville, Florida's conference games are averaging 137 total points per game, but then when the Gators travel, the number falls to 121 points per game.
Looking at the bottom line, both teams rank top-10 in defense in KenPom's adjusted efficiency standings, so it's hard not to expect a low-scoring game. It was only a few weeks ago that Florida scored 12 points in the first half at Texas A&M, so the Gators are more than capable of putting up a dud. It's always possible Alabama will score too many points and bust the over, but ultimately I'm betting that the defenses will dominate this matchup when it's all said and done. I'm on the under.
College Basketball Best Bet: Under 148
San Diego State at Utah State
San Diego State is once again putting together a high-quality resume, on track for March Madness, which would be its fifth appearance in the last six seasons (counting the 2020 season, in which the Aztecs went 30-2 before the tournament got canceled due to the pandemic). The defense is still stout as usual, but it's the offense that has this team really clicking this season. During conference play, San Diego State has the highest offensive efficiency rating in the Mountain West and is averaging 74 points per game, effectively the same at home and on the road. This is where the Aztecs have the biggest advantage in this matchup, as Utah State's defense has been vulnerable throughout the season. The Aggies rank 129th in overall defensive efficiency, and sixth in the conference during league competition.
Utah State also enters Wednesday with NCAA tournament aspirations, although it will need to win this game and several more important ones down the road if it wants to make the cut. The Aggies have reached this point thanks to a potent offensive attack, ranked 12th in KenPom's efficiency standings, but second to San Diego State when looking at the performances during the conference season. Utah State has been able to simply outscore more of its opponents, but the result doesn't turn out the same when challenged by an elite defensive team. Although the Aztecs have shown tremendous scoring potential this season, their identity has consistently revolved around the defense for the past decade. Just last year, San Diego State finished second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, so its defensive mentality is still very much part of its DNA. Utah State has played three opponents this season that rank top-50 in defensive adjusted efficiency and the Aggies lost all three matchups.
These two teams played each other exactly two weeks ago, and San Diego State won by 10 points despite Utah State shooting 64 percent inside the arc, its second-highest two-point percentage in a game this season (against D1 competition). Utah State has done a nice job collecting wins against inferior conference teams, but all three of its conference losses came against the top teams in the Mountain West, and each loss was by a double-digit margin. Winning a conference game is seldom easy, but San Diego State appears to match up well in this game, as we saw not too long ago down in San Diego. I'm taking the Aztecs in this one.
College Basketball Best Bet: San Diego State +2
Wednesday College Basketball Best Bets:
Here's a recap of my best college basketball bets for Wednesday:
- Syracuse -2
- Florida at Alabama - Under 148
- San Diego State +2
For up-to-date information on the latest college basketball odds and props from multiple sportsbooks, check out the College Basketball odds page on RotoWire.
If you're in Ohio where legal betting just launched, check out Ohio sports betting promos. With Massachusetts set to launch March 14, residents can pre-register now for many Massachusetts sports betting promos as well.